"Small and smart" is the guiding principle of Criner Construction Co. — but during the 30 years I've been in business, staying smart has been the taller order. There are two parts to this challenge. The first is keeping up with new technologies, products, and code requirements. The second — and more difficult — is keeping my crew working from the same playbook. Each of my four lead carpenters comes from a different construction background. While that gives us a lot of great experience to draw from, having products installed in four different ways can cause headaches — in everything from estimating to warranty work.

The best way to address this problem, we eventually decided, was to create our own company "best practice" manual — a set of procedures for installing all the parts of a home, from doors and windows to roofing and siding, that everyone would follow and that could be revised as needed to keep up with the latest thinking. The manual...

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